Losing body fat is essential to obtaining and maintaining a lean physique.
Endurance exercise like running or biking outdoors for hours is super fun but at what cost does this come to hard earned gains?
Although there are some hybrid athletes that stay big, lean and have Ironman-like endurance, most bodybuilders do cardio for its cardiovascular and aesthetic benefits–not necessarily to compete in a triathlon.
Nonetheless, sometimes the same old “Stairmaster with a hoodie on” or “treadmill incline walk for hours” gets boring or straight up doesn’t work due to the body getting used to this type of stress.
Physique-minded athletes should incorporate various forms of cardio into their workout including high intensity interval training, steady state cardio and moderate yet challenging endurance sessions.
A weightlifter’s priority is to lift weights so we gave you a cheat sheet for sparking a new fire into your cardio routine. The first three workouts use two cardio machines and the last uses four all to provide a functional workout that burns maximum calories.
Incorporate one workout into your workout routine 1-2 times a week.
A Primer on Heart Rate
A heart rate monitor is one of the best and most practical ways to measure your effort levels, especially during running. Most endurance coaches will divide effort into five zones based on the maximum heart rate (MHR). To find your MHR, use the following equation: 208-0.7 x your age. That’s 208 minus 70% of your age. This equation has been shown to be more accurate than the 220-age equation.
- Zone 1: 50-60 percent (of MHR)
- Zone 2: 60-70 percent
- Zone 3: 70-80 percent
- Zone 4: 80-90 percent
- Zone 5: 90-100 percent
The standard American College of Sports Medicine and National Strength & Conditioning Association recommended percentage of MHR range for developing aerobic fitness is 50-85%.
If you’re in this range, you’ll see improvements in VO2max (the maximum amount of oxygen you can consume during exercise) in addition to better circulation, decreased resting heart rate and lower submaximal exercise heart. A lower resting and submaximal heart rate is something you want–it means you do more work without as much effort. Of course the end result is there is more body fat loss.
Go above the 85% MHR like in some of these workouts, and you’re likely doing high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout where you intersperse work periods with equal, shorter or longer periods of rest.
If your work to rest ratio is 60 seconds to 60 seconds, you should see your heart rate decrease from 85%+ to 70-75% of MHR by the end of the recovery period. If you’re 15 minutes into a HIIT workout and your heart rate isn’t decreasing below 75% MHR, you need to increase the recovery period to 90-120 seconds.
Power through these four workouts to leave the gym more shredded and fit than ever.
Stairmaster & Treadmill
Directions: Get on the Stairmaster and do the prescribed workout. Then, move on to the treadmill and do the prescribed workout. Wear a heart rate monitor and sync it to an app like Polar, MyZone, etc to track your intensity levels.
- 0:00-5:00: 50-60% of your MHR
- 5:01-10:00: 61-75% MHR
- 10:01-14:00: 76-90% MHR
- 14:01-15:00: 90-95% MHR
- 15:00-18:00: rest then get on treadmill
- 18:01-20:00: 50-60%% MHR treadmill walk
- 20:01-25:00: 61-75% MHR treadmill walk at an incline of 3.0-6.0
- 25:01-30:00: 76-85% MHR: treadmill run at incline of 1.0
- 30:01-32:00: 86%-95% MHR: treadmill sprint
- 32:01-35:00: 50-60% MHR: treadmill walk to cool down
Total Workout Time: 35 minutes
Spin Bike & Arc Trainer
Directions: Start the workout on a Cybex Arc Trainer, Octane Fitness Lateral X or a similar “gliding” machine that allows for more range of motion than a standard elliptical. Then, hop on an indoor cycling bike and do the prescribed routine.
- 0:00-5:00: 60-70% MHR. Low Incline, Low Resistance
- 5:01-7:00: 71-80%MHR. Moderate Incline, Moderate Resistance
- 7:01-9:00: 81-95% MHR. Moderate Incline, High Resistance
- 9:01-11:00: 60-70%. Low Incline, Low Resistance
- 11:01-13:00: 71-80% High Incline, Moderate Resistance
- 13:01-15:00: 81-95% High Incline, High Resistance
- 15:01-17:00: 71-80% Moderate Incline, Moderate Resistance
- 17:01-20:00: get off machine, rest, get on spin bike
This workout involves changing the revolutions per minute, the unit that represents cadence or pedal speed.
- 3 minutes of 30 seconds hard work using a moderate resistance: 80-90 revolutions per minute (RPM) followed by 10 seconds recovery at 40-50RPM moderate resistance
- 1 minute recovery using moderate resistance
- 2 minutes seated work: moderate resistance at 65-70RPM
- 2 minutes standing of the seat work: moderate resistance at 65-70RPM
- 2 minutes: Ride at your preferred resistance and RPM
- 3 minutes of 20 seconds hard work (100+ RPM) followed by 10 seconds recovery (60-70 RPM)
- 1 minute recovery at 50-60RPM using light resistance
- 2 minutes heavy resistance (60-65RPM)
- 2 minutes light resistance (80-100RPM)
Total Workout Time: 40 minutes
Rowing Machine & Wind Resistance Bike
Directions: Start the workout on an indoor rowing machine such as a Concept2. Set the resistance between 7-10 on an Concept2 brand ergometer.
Do the prescribed workout then move on to the wind resistance bike, which is a machine that has no motor and is powered by your arms and legs. The harder you pedal the harder it gets. Common brands are Schwinn, Rogue and Assault Fitness.
The measurement you’re going for on the bike is calories and while everyone has a different fitness level, 15-20 calories in two minutes is a good starting point. If you feel this is too easy, aim for 40-50 calories in two minutes.
- 5 minutes of rowing at a moderate pace
- 400 meter row using faster strokes (more strokes in less time)
- 400 meter using power strokes (harder pull per stroke)
- 500 meter row at a moderate pace
- 400 meter row using power strokes
- 300 meter row as fast as possible
Wind Resistance Bike (4 Rounds)
- Aim for 15 Calories in 2 minutes
- Recover by pedaling lightly for 30 seconds
Total Workout Time: About 35 minutes
Treadmill, Stairmaster, Rowing Machine, & Wind Bike
Directions: This cross training workout requires you to go from one cardio machine to the next in a circuit format. Rest 1-2 minutes between each machine. More advanced endurance athletes can do 10 burpees, 20 bodyweight squats or 20 pushups between the machines.
Do this workout after a dynamic warmup since your heart rate should already be elevated past resting state when you begin.
Treadmill (5 Rounds)
- .25 mile sprint at a 6.0-8.0 speed depending on fitness level
- 40-60 seconds rest
- To initiate the rest, either pause the treadmill then start it back up again or decrease the speed. Very advanced runners can place one foot on each side of the treadmill belt then slow the belt down as they recover only to turn it back up soon.
- 10 Minutes at Level 8-10
- If you usually use a 5-7 level of resistance, then stick with that for this workout.
Rowing Machine (5 rounds)
- 300-meter row
- 3 Burpees
Wind Bike (4 Rounds)
- 15 Calories
- 40 seconds Wall Sit against the nearest wall
- How to Do It: Sit with your back against a sturdy wall with your knees bent at 90 degrees and thighs parallel to the ground. Hold this isometric squat position for 40 seconds.
Total Workout Time: 40 minutes